How to Ensure Online Security


In 2015 nine large companies announced their systems had been breached. With these data breaches, hackers stole private information ranging from medical records to credit card information. Scary occurrences like data breaches show why it is important to protect your private information when you’re online. With National Cyber Security Awareness Month almost over, BBB wanted to share a general roundup of tips to know about keeping safe online:

Update Software Regularly

One of the best ways to prevent breaches is by making sure the software you use is always updated. Select automatic updates when you’re setting up new programs, and you’ll always have the latest updates and security patches. Key programs that must be updated regularly includes your web browser, operating system and virus and malware prevention software.

Your computer is not the only device you need to keep updated. Your tablet, smartphone and gaming systems also need updated software to prevent breaches.

Virus and malware software must be active when you’re online. It’s also highly recommended that you scan your system for potential threats each day. Do so after you’ve updated virus definitions.

Make Sure Your Wireless Router is Secure

When installing a wireless network in your home, make sure it’s secure. Don’t use the router name set by the manufacturer. Instead, change it to something that’s not easily guessed by others. Next, change the password to something unique. Finally, turn on firewalls on the router and your operating system. Here’s another tip: check the specifications on your router. Avoid routers that use WEP for security. You want a router that offers WPA or WPA2 security levels.

Put Thought Into Your Passwords

Despite every article that discusses the importance of passwords, many still use easily guessed passwords like “123456” or “password.” If you’re using a simple password, you need to change your ways. Longer passwords with a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols are best.

Here’s an easy way to create a tough password. Choose a favorite book, song, movie or television show and turn it into a tough-to-crack password. For example, if Game of Thrones is a favorite show, use it to create “G4m30fThr0n3$” as your password. All you’ve done is replaced all occurrences of “o” and “e” with numbers and the “s” with a dollar sign. It’s a tougher password, but still one you should be able to remember with ease.

Now that you have a tougher password, use a different password phrase for different functions. Have one password for online storefronts, one for your banking, one for work-related sites and one for emails. Don’t just use one password for everything you do online.

Don’t Shop or Pay Bills on Wi-Fi Hotspots

When you go to a coffee shop or restaurant and use their free internet, unless you’re given a password, the network is not secure. The same is true if your internet provider allows your home or device to become a wireless hotspot for others to use. Avoid using free internet hotspots unless they’re password protected. To prevent others from using your internet, go into your settings and turn off the ability for others to share your network.

Always Look for Security Enabled Sites

Google’s come a long way in giving higher ranking to sites that have security measures enabled that encrypt anything you send to the site. When you’re shopping online or doing any banking transaction, look at the address bar at the top of your screen, if it doesn’t say https:// or shttp:// don’t give out any banking information.

Don’t Store Credit Cards Online

It’s frustrating just how many retailers store your credit card information for future use. Some will offer you the chance to decide if you want the credit or debit card stored. If given the chance, avoid it. If you don’t have the chance, after the sale is complete, go into the payment method settings and click “delete card.” It’s best to avoid having your credit or debit card stored online, even if the retailer is trusted.

The risk of having your information stolen is always present, but by being proactive when shopping or completing financial transactions online, you make it harder for thieves to gain your personal information. However, no system is completely safe, so make sure you check bank accounts and credit card statements regularly to look for unauthorized transactions. If you do find anything, report it with your financial institution immediately.